Sunday, July 30, 2006

An Orwell Quote for the Day, 7/30/06

Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious.
-- George Orwell
Summer Reading, 7/30/06

Recently finished Robert Graves's I, Claudius. I rarely finish novels anymore. I probably finish about 1 in 5 that I start. I usually conclude about 1/4 of the way through that the book isn't worth my time. But I enjoyed I, Claudius enough that I went to The Bookshop and bought Claudius The God, the little-known sequel. That turned out to be a mistake, and I'm putting that in the Book Statsis Pile to maybe finish it later. Maybe it's too much of the same thing, or maybe it's that Graves starts the second book with about a hundred pages on Herod, when it's Claudius you really want to know about.

Not that anybody cares what I'm reading, but it's my blog, so there.

Now I'm mostly reading part two of Faust. Jimminy Christmas, can anybody tell me WTF this book is about? I'm reading it in English, so it undoubtedly loses a lot in terms of poetical merit...and I know I'm supposed to be overawed and all...but I'm kind of a literary low-brow, and I don't think I'm getting it. I think that--with the help of copious footnotes--I did fine with part one... But I'm kinda lost with this second part.
Strange Days in Chapel Hill

Fights, shootings, gangs coming over from Durham... Somebody got killed two nights ago at Avalon, a club where there's been trouble before.

It's weird how much of this seems to be tied up with kids and clothes. When the students are gone, the vacuum seems to be filled by highschool kids (largely from Durham) playing at being gangstas. So some places with problems have had to institute dress codes--e.g. no solid-colored shirts, no "wife beaters," no solid white t-shirts, no large team jerseys, no pants rolled up to the knees... Very weird.

This is a smallish place--it feels smaller than it is, actually--and this trouble comes as a real shock to people here. These problems seem very alien.

Among the many weird things about all this is the following: it seems like these kids--little kids, one might say--are in some sense eager to promote a kind of...more violent, more dangerous culture. They seem to be attracted by a kind of gangsta chic...seduced by clothes and music, they seem to think that it would be fun if they lived in the 'hood, so they dress and semi-act as if they do, and, consequently, they seem to be intentionally moving a smallish, friendly and peaceful place in a direction no rational person could really choose.

Now, although I've had a few confrontations around here over the years, I've never had any trouble with such kids, so I'm getting much of this stuff second-hand. But it's worrisome.

Anyway...could it be that conservatives (and some of the more leftish liberals) are right about the destructive role of that part of popular culture??? Is MTV really rotting the minds and characters of the youth? I've usually scoffed at such ideas in the past...

But I'm wrong a lot...
Killing Non-Combatants: Easy Cases and Hard Ones

So, now everyone is thinking about the question "under what conditions is it permissible to endanger or kill non-combatants?"

I expect that there are some fairly general principles about which we all agree, and that our disagreement is about the application or extension of those principles to complex cases.

For example, I expect a fair amount of agreement about the following:

[1] A is trying--unjustly--to kill B. B responds by trying to kill A, which is obviously permissible. However, innocent bystander C--who does not know B, nor endorse his actions, and who is in no way trying to intervene--accidentally interposes himself. Now A cannot kill B without killing C. Here it is impermissible for A to kill C (and, of course, B).

[2] A is trying--unjustly--to kill B. B responds by trying to kill A. However, C--a confederate of B who aids and abets B at every opportunity because he, too, shares the goal of unjustly killing A--has been standing by and, at the crucial moment, interposes himself between A and B. Here it is permissible for A to kill C (and, of course, B).

Now, supposing that I'm right that we do not disagree about these cases, what we are probably disagreeing about is the intermediate cases, like the following one which is, obviousy, not selected for discussion arbitrarily:

[3] A is trying--unjustly and intermittently--to kill A. A has a right to respond by trying to kill B, but it is unclear whether/when he will do so. C has some sympathy with A, mistakenly believing that his efforts to kill B are not entirely misguided and unjust. C lives in the same neighborhood as A, vaguely--but only vaguely--recognizing that one of the reasons A lives there is because the presence of civilian targets makes A harder for B to kill. This arrangement has evolved slowly, and there was no time at which C consciously decided to become a human shield for A. After one of A's attempts to kill B, B gets an opportunity to kill A, but C unwittingly interposes himself, making it impossible to kill B without killing C. Is A permitted to kill C in this case?

The answer here is, obviously, not so easy.

One response might be to say that C is n% culpable in [3], and, thus, that A is permitted to take action to kill B that has an m% chance of killing C where m is less than or equal to n.

But I don't know. My guess is that the guys at West Point have something interesting to say about this.
Lies on all Fronts

They're even lying to us about how much the war is costing.

The real question now is: How much of this shit are we actually willing to take?

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Dershowitz: Degrees of Civilianality

I'm behind the curve these days, so most of you have already seen this. Dershowitz was derided by some, and his position was unfairly characterized, but he's got a good point so far as I can tell. Civilianality--to adopt his terminology--is a matter of degree.

One problem here is that this is the same kind of reasoning that OBL and other terrorists use to justify attacks on civilians. So that can seem like a reductio of Dershowitz's position.

We tend to think, however, that it matters how direct the involvement is. It's o.k. to take out someone who's carrying ammunition to the front, but not someone who just works at the ammunition plant. That gets tricky, of course, but welcome to life. The human world is a world of vague boundaries and matters of degree.

That's all I got.
What If John Podhoretz Has Lost Touch With Reality?

What then?

I am not kidding you when I say that I am sitting here with my mouth open. From astonishment, not from just general slack-jaw-ed-ness.


I don't know what to say to this.

I'm speechless.
Turkish Troops in Northern Iraq?

Here. (Via Metafilter)

Friday, July 28, 2006

And You Thought 'In God We Trust' Was Bad...

Check out what the White House Web Page says on the 50th anniversary of the adoption of that absurd and unconstitutional motto:

"As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of our national motto and remember with thanksgiving God's mercies throughout our history, we recognize a divine plan that stands above all human plans and continue to seek His will."

Christ on a cracker. These people never cease to amaze.

(Via Metafilter)
Perception of Media Political Bias

Some commentary on a study, summarized by Drum.

Meant to link to this long ago, but dropped it. I'm extremely interested in this kind of cognitive science. From a practical perspective, though, it's hard to correct for such reactions. I suppose that goes without saying. But such information is not useless. What it tells us is that our snap judgments about such things are unreliable.
What Can We Do?

So, I'm cutting out any attempt at an erudite and inspiring preface here and just cutting to the chase: what can we do?

The Bush administration is a disaster--far worse, far more dishonest, far more incompetent than even I suspected back in the campaign days of 1999...and I suspected that they would be pretty bad. The Democrats are, well, the Democrats, and they aren't exactly providing inspired leadership for the loyal opposition.

So. The country is in trouble. As is so often the case, America being in trouble means that the world is in trouble.

But what do we do?

Sitting around enumerating and bemoaning the vices of the Bush administration does not seem to be improving the situation. Under some conditions it might, I suppose, but it doesn't seem to be working now.

The Bush administration has, in effect, employed the Big Blunder strategy: they've screwed up so badly and so often that we hardly notice individual errors any more. Any one of their monumental screw-ups might have brought outrage under an ordinary administration, but there are just too many of them for each one to provoke anything like the appropriate level of anger.

So we sit around, numbly, dumbly, watching the slow-moting train wreck unfold, too worn out by remonstration to to even complain with appropriate vigor.

So what do we do?

Why are there no demonstrations, one wonders? Because the cause is too diffuse, too big? It seems like the only thing that can draw people out in impressive numbers is something bone-headedly simplistic like withdraw the troops now! or war is bad!

Perhaps what's needed is a demonstration to protest the overall, pervasive, multifarious failure of this administration--the dishonesty and corruption, the mismanagement and incompetence, the stupidity and arrogance. A million civil but angry people on the Mall drawing attention to and protesting the fact that this administration is, in virtually all important ways, an abject failure might--just maybe--have some effect.

Though I think we should do that, it's hard for me to believe that it should be at the top of the list.

Maybe the only other thing there really is to do is get out and work for (sigh) Democratic candidates. I don't know.

But blogging the disaster obviously isn't doing the trick.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Ann Coulter: Latent Intellectual?

Perhaps you've heard of MSNBC's latest infotainment--or disinfotainment--coup, an interview with Ann Coulter in which she claims to suspect, in effect, that Bill Clinton is homosexual. To quote Ms. Coulter:

"I think that sort of [i.e., Clinton's] rampant promiscuity does show some level of latent homosexuality."

Ms. Coulter bases this claim on passages from the Starr report, portions of which she claims to have memorized--a claim I will let pass here without comment.

Ms. Coulter's argument seems, more or less, to go like this:

(1) Clinton had sex with many women
(2) Clinton is a homosexual

I know--as do you--that Ms. Coulter appears to be at least a few quarks shy of neutron, that she seems to have a prurient obsession with Mr. Clinton, that she is an entertainer not a thinker, and that she will say absolutely anything about her liberal targets so long as it seems to her to be vile and derogatory. So, of course, it doesn't make any more sense for me to discuss her calumny than it makes for MSNBC to put her on the air. But this is the blogosphere, and we really don't have anything much better to do around here. So here goes:

Ignoring the kinds of logical niceties that Ms. Coulter herself is willing to ignore, let's just cut to the chase and note that her reasoning--such as it is--has roughly the same form as:

(1) Smith has saved many people
(2) Smith is a latent murderer


(1) Smith has murdered many people
(2) Smith is a latent hero

(1) Smith is an avid environmentalist
(2) Smith is a latent land developer

That is she seems to be asking us to believe that, because a person, N, engages enthusiastically in a certain type of activity, A--a kind of activity that in almost all cases contraindicates a preference for another type of activity, B--we should conclude that N does, in fact, secretly pine to engage in B. Roughly: avidly pursuing A shows that one is a latent non-A-er. So, for example, my almost life-long efforts to secure and maintain a place in academia shows that I am, in fact, a latent misologist, secretly longing for freedom from the drudgery of reading and teaching. Donald Trump is a latent monk. Zbigniew Brzezinski is a latent choreographer. George Washington was a latent Tory.

War is latent peace. Freedom is latent slavery. Ignorance is latent strength.

There's an important truth on display here: for zealots and crazy people, anything can be evidence for anything.

Ms. Coulter's principle of reasoning--if we might so dignify it--is nothing if not interesting. It would, if accepted, allow us to draw the most surprising conclusions. For example:

(1) Ann Coulter commits many logical fallacies
(2) Ann Coulter is a latent logician


(1) Ann Coulter says many extremely stupid, ignorant and childish things
(2) Ann Coulter is a latent intellectual

So there it is. You might think that Ms. Coulter is crazy and dim on account of her, y'know, always saying things that are crazy and dim. But that's just because you don't realize that saying stupid things is actually what shows you to be smart.

Latently, of course.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Robert Wright on "Progressive Realism" in Foreign Policy

Here (at the New America Foundation) and in the NYT.

Wright's heart's in the right place, and his specific proposals are often good (not that my endorsement matters there, as he clearly knows more about the subjects than I do), but his philosophy's confused. (If you're interested in effecting actually good actual results in the actual world, however, you could do worse.)

Problem is, everybody wants to eat his cake and have it too. This goes for theories of foreign policy as well as other domains. I write about this a lot, so forgive me for repeating myself, but here's the sketch of the competing positions:

"Realism": The only ultimate goal of a nation's foreign policy should be to advance the interests of that nation.

"Idealism": Advancing human rights in other countries can be a legitimate ultimate goal of a nation's foreign policy.
I use "scare quotes" here because I don't think that either of these terms is very good. "Realists" aren't any more "realistic" than idealists, they're just--theoretically speaking, at any rate--amoralists when it comes to foreign affairs. "Idealists" aren't necessarily that idealistic, they're just not amoral egoists when it comes to foreign policy.

In moral theory, as you probably know, it's common, all too common to try to work it so that morality and self-interest track together. That is, to the question "why be moral?," many have tried to answer "because it's in your self-interest."

But--to deal summarily with a large part of the history of Western thought--it just ain't so.

Morality, as Kant among others has emphasized, can demand of us that we make sacrifices--sometimes very large ones--for no personal gain. If I see the Hezbollah thug about to murder kindly old Mrs. Schwartz, and if there is a reasonable chance that I can stop it, then I must try to help, despite the danger to myself and even if I know for sure there will be no payoff of any kind.

The same thing goes in foreign policy. Moral considerations can sometimes obligate a country to do things for which it will receive no reward other than blood, toil, tears and sweat.

To believe that virtue is always rewarded--in this world at least--is to live a fantasy.

Sometimes, of course--more often in more civilized societies--virtue is rewarded. In fact, I believe that it is frequently rewarded, even in the realm of international affairs. As a matter of fact, a nation with a more moral, humane foreign policy is, in the long run, more likely to survive and flourish. Or at least that's what I believe the evidence indicates.

This is something upon which most realists and idealists can agree: nations are often rewarded for doing what is right. They are frequently rewarded with security, and with good will--and the latter is a an asset of enormous value, despite what more pessimistic realists say in their more pessimistic moments.

So if realists and idealists agree so often, what's the problem? About what are we disagreeing?

What we are disagreeing about here, as is so often the case when discussions become abstract enough to count as philosophical, is the hard cases. Not the easy ones, not the common ones. The question is: what should we do in those cases in which morality and self-interest do not coincide? We know what to do when they do coincide; there is no disagreement there.

In the hard cases, the "realists" counsel selfishness, idealists counsel observing our moral obligations. It is, really and truly, as simple as that.

In a case in which, say, we must decide whether to spend a nickel to secretly save a million innocent people on Mars--an act for which we will never receive any payoff of any kind--realism entails that we must save the nickel. Idealism tells us to save the people.

One might respond that no one would really let a million innocents die to save one nickle out of the U.S. budget.

First, that probably isn't true. Many people are sociopaths, and even more are egoists. I wish it were otherwise.

Second, even if no one would really make such a decision, this means that no one is really a "realist," not that this is not what realism demands.

(One might also object that that's not really a hard case, it's an easy one--but that would betray a confusion. By 'hard case' we meant case in which morality and self-interest diverge, not case in which the conflict between humanity and self-interest is a close call. The latter is a different kind of hard case.

As for those different kinds of hard cases, we can discuss those, too, but when we get to the level of thinking about philosophical positions, it often helps to discuss the easy cases first. That's why we usually start by talking about cartoonish, science-fiction-y cases: to wash out all the grubby details to get at the principle in a pure form. This different kind of hard case is represented by our actions in the former Yugoslavia. We spent treasure, risked blood, and suffered condemnation by doing what was right. There was, in fact, some security payoff--most real cases are, after all, mixed cases (see above)--but it wasn't overwhelming.)

So Wright's "progressive realism" is not really realism. This may be a mere terminological problem, but terminology can matter, and this bit is misleading--though, as he notes, catchy. "Progressive realist" suggests a position which is, well, realist--that is, to refer back to our innocents on Mars case, a nickle-saving position rather than a people-saving position. What Wright is really advocating is a kind of (as we might put it) realistic idealism (or realistic progressivism, or conservative idealism, or somesuch). He is advocating a position which is idealistic at its core--a people-saving and not a nickle-saving position--but which recognizes the high human cost of trying to solve tough humanitarian problems quickly and especially with force.

The point of this is to distinguish liberal hawks from neoconservatives. The difference is a puzzling one, one I've tried to sort out before to little avail. My working hypothesis is that liberal hawks are genuine idealists whereas neocons are, in fact, realists who think that promoting democracy is beneficial to the U.S. Liberal hawks also tend to be more conservative, in the sense that they appreciate the dangers of drastic and military action, whereas neocons tend to be radicals, confident of their own baroque, Rube-Goldberg-esque quintuple-bank-shot plans for re-making the world. But I digress.

Wright's progressive realism is a promising position, though not a novel one. Foreign policy "Idealists" rarely advise us to tilt at windmills to save the world--those are merely the charges made against them by realists. "Idealists," as I've noted, haven't really been that idealistic. But realists, being realists, try to paint them as naive, starry-eyed world-savers the instant they counsel any deviation from calculations about national interest. I welcome Wright's piece, but he might just as well have simply pointed this out: that foreign policy idealists usually encourage us to be a minimally decent country rather than a sociopathic or egoistic one, and that such minimal, circumspect decency is something even realists can usually be persuaded to get behind.

Intellectualy Dishonesty: Inspirational Quote, 7/26/06

"The most perfidious way of harming a cause consists of defending it deliberately with faulty arguments."

-- Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Sec. 191

(You'll note that Fred is not just blowing smoke here. This is an extremely important point.)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Are We About To Get Our (Iran) War On?

I don't believe this, but only submit it for your consideration.

(Via Guerilla News Network)
Big Brother--Or Creepy Cousin...or Nosy Neighbor--is Watching You

Soon corporations may know where you are all the time.

So, Big Brother is the state gone wild...we need a character to represent corporations gone wild. What should we call 'em?

(Via Metafilter)
People Are Impervious to Facts, 7/25/06 Edition

Drum summarizes a new Harris poll. Jesus wept, we are an ignorant and irrational people.

Even self-respecting conservatives should be outraged that more than 50% of people now say that Iraq had WMDs at the time of invasion, and 64% say Saddam had strong links with al Qaeda. Granted, unscrupulous conservatives are still trying to push those lines...some, perhaps, are genuinely deluded, but most are probably just spouting convenient propaganda. But principled conservatives should say "enough is enough."

It was a reasonably smart bet that Saddam had some stores of WMDs when we invaded, and it's o.k. for conservatives to point this out. Evidence was exaggerated and fabricated, but there was some good evidence out there, too. It's o.k. for them to point out that you didn't have to be crazy to believe in Iraqi WMDs in 2002.

But it is now clear that there were no WMDs, and it is in everyone's interest to try to get the American people to believe the truth. It is even more strongly in all our interests to try to help Americans develop habits of mind that will allow them to avoid such absurd errors in the future. What on Earth is happening to explain these amazing misconceptions is beyond me. Laziness is probably one thing, and propaganda by unscrupulous conservatives is another...but what in the world explains the fact that last year only ("only") 36% of people thought that Saddam had WMDs in 2002? If the amount of evidence now available to us is insufficient to correct these misapprehensions, then it isn't clear to me that any amount of evidence will ever do so.

This battle--the battle to get the American electorate to pay attention to and absorb at least the most salient and basic facts--is far more important than any other battle we are currently fighting.

Let's remember Jefferson's observation that "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."

My guess is that most people simply have little or no idea what is really going on. They give answers to such polls, but really haven't spent more than five minutes reading about or discussing these issues in any serious way, and they just repeat the latest thing they've heard, or the first thing that comes to mind. I can't believe that these are considered opinions. Still, such fleeting semi-thoughts may be what actually determine the course of our democracy.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Stanley Fish on the Kevin Barrett/UW 9/11 Conpiracy Theory/Academic Freedom Dust-Up

At the NYT.

There are things to disagree with here, but it's interesting to note that Stanley Fish seems to have mostly returned from Po-Mo la-la land. Right or wrong, at least he's making sense these days.

(HT: Statisticasaurus Rex)
Why Does Arlen Specter Hate America So Much?

Is he a traitor? A member of the Godless church of liberalism? A barking moonbat? What gives?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Why Does Bill Buckley Hate America...

...So Much?

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Sarah McLaughlin, Back at the Top of My List

The good list, not the bad one.

Via Atrios. Watch it.
Orwell Quote For The Day

All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.
-- George Orwell

Slightly off our recent topics...
North Carolina Continues Its Slow Crawl Out of the 19th Century:
Laws Mandating Domestic Sexual Segregation for Unmarried Couples Overturned

Johnny Quest and I have been happily living in sin now for several years, breaking laws in both NC and VA. Now, about half of Chapel Hill is breaking these laws anyway, and only a complete Neanderthal moron would even think about enforcing such patently unconstitutional, crazy, and immoral laws. But leave it to a Pender County Sheriff (Carson Smith) to try. He got slapped down in court, and the law has been overturned--201 years too late--but no legal action can be taken against him. After all, there's no law against being an ignorant pigshit, nor for trying to enforce dumbass laws. Dumbassedness, however, is its own punishment.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Homosexuality, Fear and Hatred

This from on the "gay panic" defense. This legal defense goes like this: A discovers that B is homosexual, A kills B, A defends himself by saying that he isn't guilty because he couldn't control his anger at B's sexual orientation. Of course such a defense will only be even vaguely plausible when there has been some close contact between A and B.

So stated, this could just as well be called 'the bigotry defense,' and could just as well be used by racists as homophobes.

While we're at it, let's compare the phrases 'homophobic' with 'gay panic.' They both seem to me to border on the same mistake: confusing hatred with fear. 'Homophobia' isn't a very apt term for the condition I've noted in many people I've known. They don't so much fear homosexuals as hate them. I'll admit that it's sometimes hard to tell hatred from fear, and that the two are often intertwined...but it's hatred and disgust that has predominated in such folks in my experience.

I sometimes conjecture that 'homophobia' was coined in a burst of rhetorical inspiration, to try to dissipate the effect in question by suggesting to those who hate homosexuals that they are just being pansies...that it's fear they are experiencing, not hatred. This would constitute a kind of covert challenge to their manhood, the equivalent of calling them chickens. Real men don't fear gays.

If that's true, then the rhetorical strategy backfired, because anti-homosexual bigotry is now, apparently, being characterized as fear in order to excuse anti-homosexual crimes.

But, as is so often the case, things are more complicated than this. Take the case of Gwen Araujo, briefly discussed in the CNN story. If this is the case I've read about in the past, here's what happened:

Araujo (aka Gwen), a male, decided that he wanted to be--or really was in some sense--a female. So he pretended to be female. He started hanging out with a group of low-life teen thugs and having sex with them--always oral or anal so that they--and remember, these are not the sharpest tools in the shed we're talking about here--wouldn't get suspicious. Finally they figured out what was going on, and brutally murdered Araujo.

Now: what the teen thugs did was without a doubt vicious and wrong. Nothing that follows should be construed as an attempt to deny that.

However, what Araujo did was wrong, too. People's sexual orientation is important to them--as Araujo should have known better than anyone else. Araujo tricked the teen thugs into doing something to which they never would have consented if they had been fully informed. He tricked them into doing something that they considered disgusting and, perhaps, morally wrong--something that might very well plague them for the rest of their lives.

Now, I don't share this view about homosexuality. I'm not homosexual, but I don't see the big deal. Nevertheless, if somebody tricked me into doing it, it's more likely than not that I would punch their lights out. Not because it's wrong or disgusting, but because that's a choice that I get to make, and nobody gets to make it for me. Again: there is no justification for killing Araujo, but he was in no way blameless in this matter.

Furthermore, it is worth noting that Mr. Araujo had intentionally picked out some very bad people to consort with. He had to know that a bad end was a real and relevant possibility. This kind of violence sickens us all, but I have to say that my sympathy for victims is mitigated when they have intentionally picked out violent people to associate with, expecially when it is precisely the violent nature of these people that attracted the victim in the first place. I think it's sick to get a sexual charge out of violence, and people who do get such a charge, and who seek out violent people to have sex with are playing with fire. Consequently, they bear partial responsibility for violence that is inflicted on them.

Insert snappy conclusion here. I got nothin'.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Why Do Republicans Hate America So Much?

So, many Republicans seem to be taking up residence in the reality-based community these days.

O.k., tell me what I'm missing here: if you warned about this stuff when it first because clear, and when it was early enough to do something about it, then you are a traitor or an America-hater, or a barking moonbat, or whatever. But if you scrupulously avert your eyes from the facts out of partisan loyalty until most of the damage is already done, and then point out that things are going bad, then...what? Is that the patriotic thing? Or what? Maybe to be a true patriot you have to continue to avert your eyes until all is lost...

Dang, this stuff is just too subtle and complicated for me.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Walzer: Is Israel Justified In The Lebanon Attacks?


Walzer: smart guy. Knows much about just war theory. I haven't read it all yet, as I found it right at bedtime. Walzer's usually worth a read, though.

I consider just war theory to be one of the best achievements of practical ethics. Much of it's just common sense...but think about the short supply of that commodity... Just war theorists fight the good fight against foreign policy "realists" on the right and against pacifists on the left, striving mightily to bring both humanity and sanity to debates about the use of force.
Flowers and Sweets...Here We Go Again

Bill Kristol tells us that an attack on Iraq [er, by which I mean Iran--ws] is likely to bring about a collapse of the regime...stop me if you've heard this one before.

The thing is, he might even be right. Who knows? I certainly don't know enough about Iran to know one way or another. But I do know enough about Bill Kristol and company to know that their word on such things cannot be trusted.

It would be kind of funny--by which I mean tragic--if Kristol et. al. were right about this one...since absolutely no sane person in the world is going to believe them after their crying of 'wolf' and generally creative attitude concerning the truth got us into the Iraq debacle.

These people are more ways than one.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Iran Backing Hezbollah's Actions...or Another Iraq Set-Up in the Offing?

I've been too busy to pay close attention to what's been going on for a couple of days, but I see that Ignatius among others seems to be playing up Iran's relationship to Hezbollah. This could be for real for all I know, but my first thought is that this sounds an awful lot like the Iraq-al Qaeda propaganda we heard before the Iraq invasion.

Yet another bad effect of not having a formal investigation of the pre-Iraq lies is that we don't know whether or not we can trust it information we're getting about Iran's role in this new crisis.

Anyway, anybody know what's going on here?

[Drum expresses similar worries, noting that Yglesias does, too.]

Thursday, July 13, 2006


Off to Missouri tomorrow for five glorious days at the Ranch of the Damned.

As you-know-who might say, try not to shoot anybody in the face while I'm gone.
Robert Kagan's Fever Dream

In today's Post.

Well, he knows more about this sort of thing, than I do, but this piece seems to border on fantasy.

First, there's the gratuitous shot at Clinton, for allegedly "leaving every major international crisis...for his successor." Which is, first, untrue--crises in the former Yugoslavia are easily forgotten, I suppose, since they were solved--and, second, misleading in the extreme. In some cases the best option is to simply do more harm. A simmering crisis is usually (though not always) better than one that is boiling over. And even when that's not true, not all ways of making a crisis boil over are preferably to letting it simmer. In Iraq, for example, I was no fan of the "let it simmer" strategy. An intelligent effort to resolve it would have been welcome. Instead, we got a bone-headed effort that simply made things far, far, far worse.

Many experts agree that Clinton handled Korea about as well as it could have been handled. I'm not sure what the consensus is of his handling of Iran. But there's a great deal of agreement that Bush's cowboy diplomacy, including his peurile "Axis of Evil" ad campaign, simply made things worse.

Bush might be engaged in the patient and intelligent diplomatic campaign that Kagan fantasizes about, but there's almost no reason to think that he is. If he'd shown any patience or intelligence in the past, this theory might have some plausibility. But he hasn't, so it doesn't. His own diplomatic strategy having proven to be a resounding failure thus far, it seems as if he may be--may be--falling back on more orthodox, time-tested methods. One can hope, of course, but it's probably too soon to tell.

Kagan also writes that his hypothetical Bush "...would have learned from his Iraq experience that, to be successful in the present, profoundly unserious international environment, a diplomatic effort requires two things: evident sincerity and almost infinite patience." Which would mean that he had finally, after disastrous failure after disastrous failure, learned what Clinton knew all along. Making Kagan's unfavorable comparison of the two even stranger.

I share Kagan's hope--improbable though it seems--that Bush has turned over a new leaf. But there's a difference between hope and fantasy. And Kagan's continued adherence to the "blame Clinton" strategy does not inspire confidence in his ability to distinguish fantasy from fact. At some point conservatives are going to have to acknowledge that Bush's failures are Bush's fault. But this would, I suppose, force them to acknowledge that they have elected and backed a candidate who is patently unfit for office, and, as a result, put the nation and the entire world in peril.

Intellectually honest people who really believed in taking personal responsibility for their actions would admit just that.

Wonder what this bunch will do?
Richard Silverstein and The Kos Dust-Up Make Fox News

Here's a response + link at MyDD. (HT: abjectfunk)

At MyDD Chris Bowers goes on about the "obsession" of the media with the netroots...and how this is a desperate, hysterical response to the fact that the netroots is here to stay...and part of the proof of this is that this flamewar is nothing compared to most of the other spittle-flecked flame wars around these parts...

Whew. Very unconvincing. Is it too obvious to point out that Mr. Bowers doth protest too much, and that this does, in fact, seem to indicate a problem that really threatens the "netroots?" And that the fact that there are lots of other, even more vicious flame wars shows that the problem is worse than one might think, not better?

I mean, yes, it's kind of weird that Fox News (note: not an actual news source) is reporting on this, and no it's not the end of everything...but this is a problem. And repeating "this is not a problem" over and over again won't make it so. Pretending that problems aren't problems is a favorite ploy in political movements, but I can't believe it's a good one. Seems to me that the thing to do would be for everybody to calm down, admit there's a problem, and figure out how to deal with it. But what do I know?

This thing started out as a rather modest, manageable problem. But I'm not sure it's staying that way. Which maybe just goes to show that it's the cover-up that'll kill you.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Interesting Piece on the Kos Wars

Here (via Instapundit). While you're there, make sure to click through to this by Richard Silverstein. (The comments are also instructive.)

I don't think the Kos skeptics (TNR et. al.) have acquitted themselves terribly well in all this, but the Kossacs have generally been worse. As Silverstein and O'Connor point out, dKos can often seem rather cultish, and criticism of the orthodoxy and the leader are met with often nasty condemnation.

Take Jonathan Chait's post today. (You know it's promising since Atrios declares him "wanker of the day." Well, at least he's no WATB...) Chait's post is puzzling...lots of good reasons to be anti-Lieberman, followed by two short paragraphs to the effect that he's hesitant to be, though, since the Kossacs are so venemous in their anti-Liebermanism. No doubt about it, it's not his best work. And it's been widely ridiculed by some of the usual suspects. But it's not an irrational piece in any way. In fact, I find myself rather sympathetic to his position. I don't like Lieberman, but I'm worried about the Kossacks.

Now, the Kossacs are a diverse group, so one can't generalize too much. Most of them are smart and sane and good to have on our side. But it's obvious that there's a large dose of cultish, venemous irrationality there, of a kind that one might expect to find on Free Republic rather than on the flagship of the leftosphere. Groupthink and incestuous amplification are terrible and dangerous things, and liberals are in no way immune from them. It's fairly obvious to almost everybody that dKos has a problem. This doesn't mean that the Kossacs are irredeemably bad, or worse than the Freepers, or wrong about everything, or any such thing. But they do have a problem. We mercilessly ridicule such actions when they show up on the right--the least we can do when they show up on the left is to acknowledge them and try to correct them. These are problems that can be fixed, but they'd better be fixed sooner rather than later.

The first step to take, I think, is to encourage more civility and a more rational response to criticism. I've sometimes been ridiculed for pushing this point in the past, but this is one thing I'm definitely right about. There's a meme in the leftosphere to the effect that to advocate civility is somehow to play into the hands of the right. That's false, of course, and the very fact that that meme was not immediately stamped out should worry us all.

At any rate, the first step here might be to try to lower the temperature in the Kos wars. Kos and his liberal critics are basically on the same side, and, as it is, the only people benefitting from this are the Republicans.
Atrios's Decline Continues: Unwarranted Attack on Lawrence Kaplan

This post from Atrios is, unfortunately, not that surprising given the way things seem to be going on that blog. If you click through to Kaplan's piece, you'll see that there is absolutely no suggestion that Atrios's accusation is true.

No time to discuss now...but it should be obvious to all.
Study Shows Psilocybins Can Trigger Life-Changing Mystical Experiences

Nevertheless, CNN covertly ridicules this information by titling the article "Mystic Mushrooms Spawn Magic Event," and the researchers fall all over themselves telling people not do take mushrooms.

Consider the following:

"Two months later, 24 of the participants filled out a questionnaire. Two-thirds called their reaction to psilocybin one of the five top most meaningful experiences of their lives. On another measure, one-third called it the most spiritually significant experience of their lives, with another 40 percent ranking it in the top five.

About 80 percent said that because of the psilocybin experience, they still had a sense of well-being or life satisfaction that was raised either 'moderately' or 'very much.' "

And nobody wants that, right?

It is really no surprise that some drugs can be genuinely mind-expanding. It is fairly well-known that psilocybins fall into that category. The government has no right and no authority to tell us what we can and cannot ingest. But these efforts are even more unjust when the effects of the substance in question can be genuinely and profoundly beneficial.

America's deep-seated puritannical streak is one of its most important and harmful derangements. Facts and reasoning have steadily beaten this puritanism back, and will continue to do so. It is, after all, little more than a kind of superstition.

The reason so few people take drug laws seriously, of course, is that these laws so obviously lack moral authority. Laws against murder or theft simply enforce moral standards that all sane people recognize to be just. Laws against private actions by individuals, such as taking relatively harmless--or beneficial--drugs are authoritarian, irrational, and unjust, and fairly obviously so. Consequently, people rightly view such laws very differently--as mere obstacles to be circumvented rather than as codifications of reasonable principles.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Tony Snow Tries to Blame...Guess Who?...For NoKo Nukes;
Drum Links to Fred Kaplan With the Real Story

Anybody else remember Bush coming into office with a bunch of hogwash about accepting personal responsiblity? Which, of course, lasted for about a day, after which everything under the sun was Clinton's fault. Well, here they go again. But we in the reality-based community prefer the facts. If you're interested, follow the link.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Gene Expression Patterns Vary Between Sexes

9/11 Conspiracy Theories and Academic Freedom


Ann Althouse discusses Kevin Barrett, a lecturer at UW-Madison. In his Intro to Islam course, Barrett apparently seriously discusses the theory that the Bush administration pulled off 9/11 in order to start a forever war in the Middle East. Barrett agrees with this view, but claims that he will discuss it objectively in class.

Coupla quick things:

1. Barrett is pretty clearly an idiot.

2. Althouse and her readers are infuriated. I don't blame them, but some of the comments betray a fairly thin commitment to academic freedom. That principle should, of course, be defended. Which in no way contradicts 1 (above).

3. See, this is one of the things that makes people worried about leftist bias in the academy.

4. Since I haven't complained about postmodernism for a couple of hours...note that this is a fairly common kind of thing in the humanities and social sciences now: folks teaching about things they don't understand in the least. It's fairly clear that Mr. Barrett isn't an engineer. But that doesn't stop people in the postmodern era. If your Ph.D is in Victorian lit, hey, go ahead and hold forth about quantum mechanics. If you got a degree in speech communications (motto: "Ees phoney major!), feel free to pontificate about economics. Since nothing is really true or false, you might as well discuss whatever amuses you.

4'. Welcome to my world. I've encountered people in other departments who assured me that they specialized in (specialized in) metaphysics and epistemology, but who couldn't name a single living philosopher other than Richard Rorty, and who knew less about the subjects than the undergraduates three weeks into one of my courses. Everybody, of course, gets to teach about philosophy...even people who know absolutely nothing about it whatsoever.

5. The folks on Althouse's site are fairly clearly right-of-center. I'd like to ask them whether they're as upset about the prospect of creationism being taught in biology classes. We actually have more evidence that evolution is true than we have that the airliner impact was the cause of the collapse of the WTC. As far as scientific travesties go, creationism is worse than Barrett's 9/11 fantasies.

6. Incidentally, I know virtually nothing about the collapse of the WTC. I don't take the conspiracy theories at all seriously, but I'm just deferring to the conventional wisdom here...I don't know the first thing about engineering.

7. But that business about the Bush administration doing it has got to be one of the single stupidest things I've ever heard.
Hate-Filled Insanity Is Fine...Plagiarized Hate-Filled Insanity, On The Other Hand...

Man, this kind of thing is fairly common, but I still find it astounding. Coulter writes spews forth another hate-filled screed. Her minions, of course, eat it up, apparently believing her to be sane, or at least pretending to do so. Some people point out, once again, that she's a whack job, but mostly people continue to treat her as if she were a serious political analyst.

But then it turns out that she plagiarized part of her insane, hate-filled screed, and that's what we're supposed to think is wrong.

Good thing Hitler didn't plagiarize Mein Kampf or he might have been taken to task.

Reminds me of the recent Limbaugh dust-up. The guy can devote his life to ripping the soul out of public discourse and that's fine. But recreational drug use...well, we have to draw the line somewhere! Similar things could be said about Tom DeLay. Hell, taking vacations from Jack Abramoff may have been the best thing he did. At least it kept him out of Washington, where he was doing the real harm.

Look, the fact that Coulter is a plagiarist pales in comparison to her other moral and intellectual failings. Actually, at least it means that some of the nuttiness in her book didn't come from her own mind (and I use the term loosely).
Campaign Wikia

This is very interesting--an effort to make wikis matter to politics.

Right now this seems to be focused on campaigns, but it would be far more interesting to employ wikis in political inquiry. They could be used to do what I've been trying to get folks to do for a long time--put canonical versions of political arguments in clear, systematic forms on the web, so that we can identify where we agree and where we disagree and move forward from there.

For example, every time I have a discussion with someone about the question 'did the adminitration deceive us about Iraqi WMDs?', it takes at least 20 minutes of discussion to clear away elementary confusions. Many people, for example, have argued in my presence that the relevant question is 'did Bush lie?', and that one only lies when one knows for certain that p is false but says that p is true. Now, it will take 5-10 minutes just to clear up those simple errors. If we had the whole argument laid out on a wiki, so that each side to make sure that its arguments were formulated optimally at every stage, then we could clearly identify who's right at certain points, where more information is needed, and which points remain controversial.

Anyone who thinks that political inquiry is rational should agree that this project would be beneficial.
A Leak That Mattered?

So this plot to flood lower Manhattan by blowing up tunnels and the law of gravity or described by officials as "the real deal." Since we can't believe anything the administration says anymore, I'm skeptical. Those involved had, apparently, not tried to acquire explosives or, so far as I can tell, take any concrete, positive steps toward implementing their plan. Futhermore, although blowing up the tunnells would have been horrific, I don't see how this would flood Manhattan unless it's below sea level...which it very well might be for all I know, but you'd think that would be a well-known fact if true.

Anyway, none of this is to say that they shouldn't be taken seriously and arrested. It's just to say that it's not clear how much of a threat they really posed. As we know, the administration plays up its successes and plays down its failures, and, since they caught these guys, presumably we'll be regaled with many tales of their terrorist puissance. My guess is that they're all the #3 man in al Qaeda.

What's notable here, however is that this story hit the news as a result of a leak. Now, this seems to be a leak that actually mattered. In the midst of an on-going investigation somebody released a story which, according to officials, actually affected the investigation and forced them to arrest some of the participants before they could get them all. When I first heard this I though "Ugh...please don't let this be the NYT!"...but that's all I ever heard. If the NTY did do this, then they deserve to be vilified...but that doesn't seem to have been the case. After the recent gigantic mega-dust-up, I would have thought that such a leak would have caused an uproar...but so far, nothing.

So what gives?
Is Bush Relying on a Magic Eight-Ball to Set U.S. Foreign Policy?

Signs Point to 'Yes.'

Friday, July 07, 2006

Wanted: Dead Or...Oh, Never Mind...

CIA disbands its bin Laden Unit.

As a liberal, of course, I am soft on terrorism in that I actually think we should be focusing on the people who perpetrated 9/11. Dang, why do I hate America so much?
Inherit the Wind: Ann Coulter, Flatulent Raccoons, and Evolution

As you know, I'm not much of a fan of the left end of the political spectrum. Even liberals (i.e. center-left types)--the political group of whom I'm currently most fond--tend to bug me a fair amount of the time.

Anyway, as a more-or-less liberal, I'm prone to try to find fault with my own position and identify the virtues of those with whom I disagree.

But there's just not any real doubt about it: American liberals are, as a kind of collective whole, way, way less crazy than American conservatives.

Is this because American liberals are particularly sane? Maybe in part. But it's mostly because American conservativism is home to so many total whack jobs. And I'm not picking out obscure nuts here, as both sides have more than their share of those.

I'm talking about the folks who count as political superstars.

I'm talking about, for example, Ann Coulter.

Now, you probably thought that she just couldn't get any dumber. I know that's what I thought. But we were wrong, as this post at Media Matters demonstrates.

You see, in her wild-eyed, spittle-flecked crusade to discredit everything liberal, Ms. Coulter has decided to take on the theory of evolution--something about which, as it turns out, she understands nothing.

It's a truly embarrassing performance by Coulter. It's not even clear that she knows as much about evolution as the average undergraduate. She's obviously not qualified to even, say, give an introductory lecture on the subject, much less refute its central theory. Of course her fans will eat it up, as they don't know--and don't want to know--any better.

There's no liberal equivalent of Ann Coulter. That's faint praise for American liberals, of course...but it's more than can currently be said in favor of American conservatives.
New Downing Street Memo Info

Read this at Drum's digs. No time to comment on it now, just read it, sez me.
New Revelations about DoD E-Mail Surveillance Against Protesters, Student Groups

Reports the Chronical of Higher Education.

First paragraph:

"The Department of Defense monitored e-mail messages from college students who were planning protests against the war in Iraq and against the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy against gay and lesbian members of the armed forces, according to surveillance reports released last month. While the department had previously acknowledged monitoring protests on campuses as national-security threats, it was not until recently that evidence surfaced showing that the department was also monitoring e-mail communications that were submitted by campus sources."
Peter L. Berger: "Whatever Happened to Sociology?"

Howard Gabennesch sent me this short, interesting piece from First Things.

It's particularly interesting from the perspective of our discussions here because Berger argues that one of the main things leading to the decline of sociology has been the rise of leftist orthodoxy in the discipline. This is consistent with things I've argued here in the past. I know many liberals don't believe that leftist bias is a problem in academia, but I offer this piece up as yet another bit of evidence.

Note that Berger is not writing for a political audience, he's writing as a sociologist. His central claim is that two developments have been primarily responsible for the decline of sociology. He writes:

"The title question has been asked frequently in recent years, both within and outside the field. I think that it can be answered rather easily: sociology has fallen victim to two severe deformations. The first began in the 1950s; I would label it as methodological fetishism. The second was part of the cultural revolution that started in the late 1960s; it sought to transform sociology from a science into an instrument of ideological advocacy."

That last bit about the discipline becoming an instrument of ideological advocacy is, IMHO, pretty much right on. That doesn't describe the attitude of all sociologists, of course, but it seems to describe that of at leats a large minority of them.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Drum on The One Percent Doctrine

KD's review of the book. Characteristically clear and fair-minded.
Video: Chomsky and Foucault

Cool link from Metafilter of a discussion between Chomsky and Foucault, aired, believe it or not, on Dutch t.v. I guess those poor folks don't get The Simpsons over there...

I'm not a big Chomsky fan, but he totally schools Foucault here. Foucault isn't actually a guy I can muster a noticeable amount of intellectual respect for, though.

The discussion here follows a well-known template, with a few variations. Chomsky briefly sketches his political vision (which, incidentally, I'm not sympathetic with...but no matter). Foucault responds, eventually getting around to saying, roughly:

MF: You say that under your proposed form of government we'd be able to better realize our true human nature...but because of social oppression/power somethingorother/blahblahblah, how can we be sure that this is really what human nature is like?

Now, pay attention, because these continental/PoMo/intellectual-left types make that move all the time.

Chomsky's response is exactly right: (roughly:)

NC: There's uncertainty everywhere. You can make the same objection against any project, including, say, direct action against the Vietnam war. But we just do here what we always must do: we take our best guess and act, always being ready to revise our opinions in light of new information.

Righto. The only alternative is complete paralysis.

Foucault then makes another move typical of folks on his side of the fence, claiming, roughly:

MF: Crucial concepts here like justice are products of class blah blah, and they won't exist after the revolution, in a classless society.

Chomsky then makes one of the right points:

NC: I disagree. I think these are absolutes, though I can't give you a complete account of them here. Botched up as it might be, I think our concept of justice is an approximation of the correct concept of justice, and, while it might be modified, it won't be completely abandoned.

Good. But he should also have noted that Foucault hasn't offered any real reason to think that there's an actual problem with our concept of justice. He merely offers generic skeptical/fallibilistic worries. Chomsky could have replied:

NC*: Well, if you're going to let that kind of worry trip you up, you might as well worry that there will never be a revolution, because our concept revolution is defective/socially conditioned/whatever, as are our concepts class, society, etc. Any of these concepts might contain confusions, but, then again, they might not. These concepts are the best we have, therefore we have some reason to think they approximate the ideal concepts. So we have better reason to think that the final versions of the concepts will be similar to them than that they won't.

Anway, then Foucault slips in a covert whine about not having enough time to respond, but he's nailed, and his response doesn't add anything.

Chomsky's way left of me, but he's the kind of guy you could have an intelligent and reasonable discussion with. My sense of Foucault is that he is not that type of guy, but, rather, basically a sophist...even if, perhaps, a well-meaning one. This discussion looks like it took place in the early '70's or so, and Chomsky looks like a kid...a kid who doesn't yet have the stridency of some of the later Chomsky.
Greg Sargent on the O'Donnell-Sheehan Dust-Up


Few suggestions:

1. Contrary to what Sargent claims, O'Donnell does not seem to be "grossly charicatur[ing] [the] anti-war position on Iraq." Rather, she's attributing this view to Sheehan.

2. Sheehan doesn't clearly deny that she would teleport all the troops home right now if that were in her power. She says:

"...we can't fly planes over and pick them all up tomorrow. It would take a few months. And it has to be as safe for our soldiers and as safe for the Iraqi people as possible. But it would have to be as soon as possible.

That last bit suggests that she wouldn't teleport them if possible, but it's unclear. All she clearly says in this regard is that it's not possible to get them out immediately...not that she wouldn't do so if possible. We can't tell what she thinks from this without knowing whether she thinks that immediate withdrawal (via, e.g. teleportation) would be harmful for our troops and the Iraqis.

Sounds like O'Donnell was out of line in this interview, but Sargent's points here seem rather wide of the mark.
IHT Poll of Britons: Bush Sucks, "Special Relationship" Between U.S. and Briton Over

This poll by the International Herald Tribune should come as no surprise to members of the reality-based community. The Brits still generally like Americans, but they're not so keen on America anymore, and downright disgusted with Bush.

The administration and its cronies, however, continue to view this as a marketing problem:

"The Daily Telegraph quoted an embassy spokesman as saying that the United States had not successfully communicated America's "extraordinary dynamism," but also blaming the British news media for ignoring stories about the successes of American society and the U.S. economy."

Since this administration can't imagine that it might be wrong about anything, any disagreement can only be solved by working harder to sell its position to others. This may (or may not...who knows?) work in business, but it won't work when more serious matters are at stake.

The Brits are an important and reliable detector of American bullshit. They know us better than anyone else--with the possible exception of the Canadians--they like like us, and they share almost all of our basic world-view. They're smart and reasonable, and when they cry "bullshit" on us that's something we need to take very, very seriously.

The only group left in the whole world that fails to recognize that this administration is screwing up in a very profound way is conservative American Republicans. And when you find yourself in a small, highly partisan group, disagreeing about a highly politically-charged issue with, basically, the rest of the world...well, you might still be right, but it's time to reassess. The smart money is on the rest of the world.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Foreign Policy: The Terrorism Index, Take Deux

Awhile back I linked to this [link fixed] survey of foreign policy experts, but never got around to discussing it. I see Kevin Drum's talking about it today, so that remined me to say some things I meant to say.

Now, FP did this poll with the Center for American Progress, and there were slightly more liberals than conservatives in the pool. But they tried to correct for this in the results...and, more importantly, the results do not show anything like a close call. There is a great deal of consensus about the important numbers.

Good liberal that I am, I spend a lot of time second-guessing my own political opinions. So the results of the survey are a kind of good news-bad news thing from my perspective. The good news: I'm not crazy. The bad news: I (and liberals in general) appear to be pretty much right about the efficacy of the Bush administration's approach to our efforts against terrorism.

Only 13% of the experts thought that we are winning the GWoT, while 84% thought we weren't. (Breakdown: Yes, we are: conservative, 23%; moderate, 8%; liberal 9%...No, we're not: conservative, 71%; moderate, 90%; liberal, 89%).

Only 10% of the experts thought that the world was getting safer for Americans, while 86% thought it was getting more dangerous.

When identifying the greatest threat to our national security, 47% said "nuclear weapons/nuclear materials/WMDs", 32% said al Qaeda, 14% said "Bush administration policies," and 9% said "the war in Iraq/Mideast conflict." Were I guessing at the relative dangers here, I might have ranked al Qaeda slightly lower and "Bush administration policies" slightly higher...but that means I'm probably wrong about that. At any rate, these conclusions are consistent with what many liberals have been saying--that Bush erred when he cut the Nunn-Lugar program to buy nuclear material from the former Soviet Union, and that Bush administration policies are disastrous enough that it makes sense to speak of them in the same breath with al Qaeda when we are discussing threats. (That our own policies are nearly half as dangerous to us those who perpetrated 9/11 should in and of itself generate outrage.) And that the Iraq war has made us less safe rather than more so.

(Note: it's too bad there wasn't more separation of issues here. It'd be good to know the relative levels of danger posed by nukes as opposed to other "WMD"s, and to be able to separate out the Iraq war from other Mideast conflicts).

One of the most interesting sets of data comes here, where expert opinion is compared to public opinion. In almost every instance, public opinion more closely tracks conservative/Bush administration opinion, whereas expert opinion more closely tracks with what we might call "common liberal opinion" (my opinions, too, in most cases.)

Finally: though overall I was really surprised about how closely my own tentative judgments match expert opinion here, there was one important judgment about which I was staggeringly off-base--to wit, the judgment about whether we are winning or losing the "war" against terrorism. As I've said many times, I thought we were winning, but by a far, far narrower margin than anyone could have predicted on 9/11/01. However, as I've noted, the experts disagree resoundingly, with only 13% (23% of conservatives) saying that we're winning.